Biden announces initial $115 million investment in Jackson, Mississippi, water infrastructure

Carlos Barria/Reuters/File

By Nikki Carvajal, CNN

(CNN) — More than $100 million in funding has been distributed for repairs to Jackson, Mississippi’s beleaguered water system, President Joe Biden announced Tuesday, the first tranche of more than half a billion dollars appropriated by Congress.

“For years, the people of Jackson, Mississippi, have suffered the consequences of aging water infrastructure,” Biden wrote in a statement. “Last summer, the city’s water system reached a crisis point when a major flood aggravated longstanding problems in the system and left tens of thousands of people without any running water for days on end. Long before then, families in Jackson lived under the constant threat of boil water orders.”

Biden wrote the “initial $115 million investment” in Jackson’s water infrastructure would come from funding provided by 2022’s sweeping omnibus spending bill. The bill includes a total of $600 million for the city’s water system, which suffered a catastrophic breakdown last year. The president said that his administration had made “a lot of progress,” but “there is much more work to do to ensure that all Americans have access to clean water.”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan called the funding a “significant shot in the arm” in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.

“We are announcing our first round of $115 million,” Regan told CNN’s Sara Sidner. “It will go towards continuing to stabilize this system, it will go to plugging some of the leaks in the distribution system, shoring up that integrity, ensuring that the pressure continues to stay at a certain rate.”

He said the funding would go to “priority areas” to ensure that “we get everyone safe, affordable drinking water and continue to give them safe affordable drinking water as we restore the entire integrity of the system.”

“This process takes years, but people should not question the quality of their drinking water,” Regan said.

In August 2022, Jackson’s water system was already suffering from largely systemic issues like old, leaky pipes and malfunctions at treatment plants. But then the city’s main water treatment plant began failing after torrential rains, leaving roughly 150,000 residents without clean drinking water.

Biden in his statement also thanked Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who the president called “a steadfast leader in times of crisis, a strong advocate for his constituents, and a great partner, and I want to thank him for his untiring commitment to the Jackson community.”

“Thanks to my Investing in America agenda, we’re already deploying record resources to communities all across America to replace lead pipes, improve water quality, and rebuild the nation’s drinking water infrastructure, ensuring it can withstand the impacts of the climate crisis,” the statement reads.

Biden will host his first Cabinet meeting since January on Tuesday, where he is expected to talk about his Investing in America agenda – which is likely to be a cornerstone of his campaign for reelection.

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